The Complete Guide on Car Rentals in San Francisco

With landscapes and tourist attractions that can you transport you anywhere, San Francisco is a city with great food and hilly roads. In order to explore every nook and corner, you may want to rent a car and drive around the beautiful city while soaking in the most gorgeous views. We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide on how to rent a car in SFO.

Top Car Rentals in San Francisco

1. Alamo

Location(s): Multiple branches at Union Square (Post St.), San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf, Redwood City Centennial, San Francisco Moscone Center, and more
Price
: Starting at USD 209 (including taxes) for a medium sedan.
Where to Book: Visit the official website for bookings and more info.

2. Avis

Location(s): Multiple branches at Union Square (Post Street), San Francisco (Howard Street), Fisherman’s Wharf (Anchorage Square), Emeryville, Oakland Downtown, South San Francisco, Foster City, Walnut Creek, SFO International Airport, and more.
Price: Starting at USD 102.85 (including taxes) for a medium sedan.
Where to Book: Visit the official website for bookings and more info.

3. Budget

Location(s): Multiple branches at Union Square (Post St.), San Francisco (Howard St.), Emeryville, Oakland Downtown, San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport, San Rafael, and more.
Price: Starting at USD 43.99 per day for a medium sedan.
Where to Book: Visit the official website for bookings and more info. 

4. City Rent-a-Car

Location(s): Union Square Office, 349 Mason St
Price: Starting at USD 71.99 per day for a medium sedan.
Where to Book: Visit the official website for bookings and more info.

5. Dollar

Location(s): 780 McDonnell Rd
Price: Starting at USD 40.78 per day for a medium sedan.
Where to Book: Visit the official website for bookings and more info.

6. Enterprise Rent a Car, San Francisco

Location(s): Multiple branches at Oakland International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and more.
Price: Starting at USD 50.43 per day for a medium sedan.
Where to Book: Visit the official website for bookings and more info.

7. Hertz, San Francisco

Location(s): Multiple branches at San Francisco International Airport, Ellis Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, Mason Street, and more.
Price: Starting at USD 82.80 per day for a medium sedan.
Where to Book: Visit the official website for bookings and more info.

8. Thrifty, San Francisco

Location(s): Multiple branches at San Francisco Downtown (O’Farrell Street), San Francisco Airport, Oakland Airport, San Jose Airport, Ridgecrest, Pasadena, and more.
Price: Starting at USD 22 per day for a medium sedan
Where to Book: Visit the official website for bookings and more info.

9. Zipcar, San Francisco

Location(s): Multiple branches at Hawthorne Street, Howard Street, Embarcadero Center, Stockton Street (near Union Square), and more.
Price: Starting at USD 88 per day for a medium sedan.
Where to Book: Visit the official website for bookings and more info.

Cost of Renting a Car in San Francisco

Renting a car in SFO
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When renting a car in San Francisco, it is important to take in to account certain factors such as which rental company has the best prices, offers and what kind of conditions do they have set in terms of things like mileage coverage, insurance, and more; all of these affect the total cost of renting a car. Also, keep in mind the kind of budget you have before selecting a car rental and car. Apart from that you may also consider just renting a car for a few days and using public transport instead to fully experience San Francisco.

Some Other Factors That Affect the Cost:

1. Operator: Whether the rental car company is a top national company or a cheaper alternative.

2. Car Type: The type of car you choose also includes the cost of the kind of features it offers.

3. Car Pick Up Location: The location you choose to get the rental car from also makes a big difference in terms of fees and taxes. For example, renting from an airport location can be extra expensive as compared to any other normal location.

4. Distance Covered: Although a mode of convenience, the duration of the trip for which you will be renting the car also impacts how much you will be spending. 

Documents Required When Renting a Car in San Francisco

1. Always carry a credit card and in case you forget to carry one, a debit card should work too.

2. If using a debit card, firstly you must be 25 years or older and must have 2 different types of IDs. The debit card must also be pre-approved and accepted by the car rental company.

3. Carry proof of Insurance or you might have to buy it from the rental company’s side.

4. A valid driver’s license matching the name on your credit card and other IDs. 

Some Important Tips and Things to Know Before Renting a Car in San Francisco

1. Do a Thorough Study Before Renting: Before choosing a car rental company, understand the kind of car that would be the most effective and efficient for you based on the places you would be visiting in terms of kilometers, the number of people traveling in the car, and so on. The kind of car you want to drive won’t necessarily be the best choice; so keep in mind the geographic location.

2. Analyse the Rates: Always go through the fees and taxes and ensure that you are aware of all the costs included in the car rental charges before you book the car. And it's best to keep a copy of the confirmation screen once you’re done booking as proof to be able to match everything when you go to pick up the car.

3. Check the Condition of the Car Before Renting: Never leave the car rental with a car that you have not checked personally. Always check for basic things like scratches, damages, etc. as some of the car rentals will make you sign a document referring to the car’s condition.

4. Avoid Renting From the Airport: Remember that it is cheaper to rent from a car rental that is not located on airport grounds (as they have a lot of special fees and taxes).

6. Check If You Can Drop Off Anywhere: Ensure you check whether if it is okay to drop off the car at another location (from the one where you rented the car originally) and what kind of charges are associated with this.

7. Remember the Return Time: Also keep in mind the return time, as extra hours can end up costing more than you would like.

8. Fill the Tank Before Returning: Some car rentals make expect you to drop off the car with a full tank so make sure you enquire about this before leaving the lot. Also know that gas stations are few and scattered across the city.

9. Always Carry Insurance Info: Remember that you must always carry your insurance information and documents regarding auto coverage.

10. Try Pre-booking: Just like you would make a reservation for a movie or vacation in advance, do the same for renting a car if you don’t want to waste any time searching for the perfect car for the trip. This will guarantee you get a car even during the tourist season and at the best rate possible.

Tips on Driving and Parking Around San Francisco

Driving around San Francisco
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1. Set the Parking Brake: The city has steep hills, so make sure to not drive too fast and always remember to set the parking brake. Choose wisely when deciding whether to drive a manual or automatic car.

2. Pay Attention to One-Way Streets: San Francisco has a lot of one-way streets. Ensure that you pay attention to avoid entering from the wrong side.

3. Check All Street Signs: Also be mindful of the signs that are used on the roads. For example, where you think you can take a turn may not allow for it.

4. Be Careful of SF's Narrow Streets: Apart from being crowded, the streets of San Francisco are also narrow. So, it’s best to vigilant to avoid any accidents. Taxis are another thing to watch out for as they zoom in and out of traffic jams.

5. Check Parking Fee: Hotels around San Francisco tend to charge a fee for parking on a per-day basis.

6. Street Park Only if Allowed: Another point to keep in mind is to look out for spots that allow street parking as there are restrictions. Keep in mind that most street parking spots are usually an ill fit for regular-sized cars as they’re small and a tight fit. If possible consider getting a small car if it fits your needs.

7. Parking Meters Accept Credit Cards: One good thing about the parking meters around the city are that they accept credit cards and you don’t have to worry about carrying change.

8. Get Apps That Help You Find Parking: There are plenty of apps that can help you find the perfect parking spots in and around San Francisco.

9. Keep Track of Garage Parking Fares: Many garages and parking lots charge on the basis of certain time slots like 20 or 25 minutes and so on. Make sure you understand the prices before you park your car here.

Now that we’ve given you the information and confidence on how to rent a car in San Francisco, let us know in the comments below which dream car you’ll be picking for your trip!

This post was published by Malvika Kumar

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